Tony Kelly, Tarzan Boy Darren and Steve Fury organised the year's first British Professional Wrestlers' Reunion in the Leeds area, this time at The Oulton Institute.
The change of venue proved to be a great success, with everyone agreeing the hall provided an ideal location for the afternoon's
celebration of the 'glory days' of British Professional Wrestling. The event was a chance for wrestlers, their families and invited guests
to meet over a few drinks, and a buffet in a relaxed atmosphere. Posters adorned the walls, giving the wrestlers plenty of opportunity for
banter about their top-of-the-bill status, and to recall opponents and venues which had slipped their minds for so many years.
A welcome innovation this year was the awards ceremony, where wrestlers stepped up to receive certificates confirming that colleagues had voted them "The Dream Worker" or "Hard as Nails", to name but two of the accolades.
Thanks to Al Tarzo for sending this report from the Yorkshire Evening Post, published on Thursday 10th March 2011:
The hair was a touch greyer, the waistlines a little thicker and there wasn’t a leotard in sight. But TV viewers with long memories would still have recognised some familiar faces if they had swung by a reunion event held in Leeds. It brought together a host of stars from the British wrestling scene of the 1960s and 70s, when the grapple game regularly drew Saturday afternoon audiences of 10 million to ITV’s World Of Sport show.
Peter Preston, Johnny Saint and Tony ‘Banger’ Walsh were just three of the heroes of yesteryear who gathered for the bash at Oulton Institute. And the camaraderie among the event’s 100 or so guests was plain to see as anecdotes and banter flew back and forth across the building’s main hall. Peter, the first man to beat Mick McManus on television but now a 72-year-old great-grandfather living in Birkenshaw, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “It’s nice to see some old friends you haven’t seen for years. “There’s people here I haven’t met up with for 15 or 20 years. We’ve got a lot of shared memories and stories.”
The celebratory mood was heightened by an awards ceremony where the categories included best villain and best travelling companion. There was sadness too, however, as the names of recently-deceased fighters like Vic Stewart and Paul Lincoln were read out. The nostalgia factor, meanwhile, was ramped up thanks to the decoration of the venue with vintage wrestling posters. They promoted grunt ’n’ groan bouts featuring the likes of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki in no-frills settings such as Hull’s Madeley Street Baths and Leeds’s now-demolished Queens Hall. One from the 1960s even trumpeted a Queens Hall battle between Ricki Starr and a pre-knighthood Jimmy Savile. At that time Sir Jimmy was combining his showbiz career with a sideline as a pro wrestler and was billed on the poster as “teenage idol and top DJ”.
The reunion’s organisers included Darren Ward, who had a ring career as ‘Tarzan Boy’ until he was forced into retirement by a car crash. Asked about the current preference among his sport’s fans for the razzmatazz of its American version, 45-year-old Darren, from Woodlesford, said: “The British scene has gone to virtually nothing, which is really sad. “It’s pretty unbelievable when you think about it, getting 10 million viewers on a Saturday afternoon. They’d be happy with that in prime time now.” Manchester’s Johnny Saint – real name John Miller – perhaps put it best, though, when he mused on the domestic scene’s faded glory and said: “I don’t see it making a comeback. Everything moves on – although not always for the better.”
You can read another report with pictures at the excellent Wrestling Heritage website.
Thanks to John White for sending in his photographs (numbered 300 to 311), which have been mixed here with my own pictures of the presentation of the awards.
Now back to the 'round the tables' pictures.